Jed Appelman

Appelman—Jed Appelman, 70, on February 26, 2019, at his home in Berkeley, Calif. Jed was born on November 9, 1948, in Los Angeles, Calif., to Frances Helen Friedman and Matt Appelman, former Jewish communists with several friends who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He grew up in Los Angeles, where his father was a union leader. Polio when he was a child left him with post-polio syndrome. A conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, he studied philosophy at Colorado College and worked in Silicon Valley in its early days. He and Michael Ann Leaver were married for a time, and he was active in raising their two sons.

As a spiritual inquirer, he explored several faith practices, especially Quaker, and relished the Torah-study method of sitting in a small group, examining a text, and adding one’s own commentary. He honored his parents’ Jewish heritage, as an adult studying Hebrew in order to have his bar mitzvah. He studied and practiced Vipassana meditation before coming to Berkeley Zen Center, where he served on the board and as its main welcomer, sitting on the Zendo steps and getting to know people. Soon after finishing a doctorate in clinical psychology from the Wright Institute in 1987, he came to Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley, feeling a need for a community of spirit where he could bring his young son, Simon. Initially drawn to the quiet of meeting for worship, he decided to become a member when he saw people standing to hold hands after meeting for business, and he joined in 1998. He served on every committee at least once, most recently on the Welcoming and Inclusion Committee, which he had helped create. He explored Quaker leadings and the lives of Friends, and most Sunday mornings greeted and welcomed people to meeting. Many Strawberry Creek Friends sought his counsel and advice, and he always responded with kindness and patience. Compassionate, generous, wise, warm, whimsical, and mischievous, he mixed science with Buddhist philosophy, once saying he meditated on the structure of galaxies down to sub-atomic particles, which led him into emptiness.

In 2013, a stroke left him with aphasia, but that hardly affected his commitment to the meeting and the community. He served on the Center for Independent Living Board and worked most recently for the Kaiser Foundation, supporting research on strokes and stroke care. He learned he had stage 4 cancer in the summer of 2018. Open about his illness, he faced his remaining time serenely, staying engaged with the world and his friends and family. He continued going to his beloved aphasia group once a week, read both Michelle and Barack Obama’s autobiographies, and enjoyed sports to the end, discussing games and players with his son Soren and watching Warriors games with his brother, Dan, and son Simon. He met with a small support group over his last few months and continued greeting people and worshiping with Strawberry Creek on Sundays and sitting Zazen and serving at Berkeley Zen Center. He was ordained a Zen priest in December 2018. Inviting friends to visit, he made a point of saying goodbye even if they weren’t ready to say goodbye. He researched end-of-life options, chose the time he wanted to die, and was buried in a natural burial in Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley, Calif.

Jed is survived by his children, Soren Eric Leaver, who teaches English as a second language in Japan, and Sean Simon Leaver Appelman, who works as a financial planner; his brother, Dan Appelman (Debbie Soglin); his friend and ex-wife, Michael Ann Leaver; and his dear friend, Debbie Weismann.

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